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SOE Bears Fruit | California Sets Organic Targets | EU Packaging Rules Change

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”  ~Wilma Rudolph

President’s Remarks

The outcomes of National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings can often feel somewhat dry and mechanical, to put it kindly. In contrast, what stood out most to me about the meeting last week in Milwaukee was the passion, commitment, and hope that feed the relationships amongst members of this organic community. I was able to attend the National Organic Coalition (NOC) meeting for the first time in many years, and found it to be a thoughtful, helpful prelude to the NOSB meeting itself.

In-person public comment was once again included as part of the agenda, and this provided a rich collection of perspectives and experiences for the Board, Program, and audience. Newly minted Board Chair Kyla Smith managed the cordial, civil proceedings with a veteran’s steady hand, and the Program staff provided timely and helpful updates and clarifications for all. We heard excellent updates from Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) Midwest region representatives that give hope for the community everywhere.

This public-private partnership that Congress mandated nearly 35 years ago in the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) has allowed us all to participate in real and meaningful ways. We’ve developed important relationships that serve not only ourselves, but also clearly catalyze, advance, and grow this organic community; the organic business sector continues to evolve through our collective efforts and dedication.

While a primary role of the NOSB is to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on substances for the National List and policy, the NOSB meeting provides a unique and essential place for us to be honest and humane, start new conversations, find allies, test assumptions, make new connections, hear diverging opinions, and above all, build the meaningful relationships that are integral to this most wonderful community. I’m already looking forward to Portland in the fall. Come find us; let’s talk.

Bill Wolf
Wolf & Associates

NOSB Spring Meeting Review

NOSB Spring Meeting Review
The National Organic Standards Board met in Milwaukee April 29-May 1. Along with initial discussion of materials up for sunset, the Board heard presentations from the National Organic Standards Board, an update from the Midwest region of the Transition to Organic Partnership Program and a panel discussion on compost. See the meeting agenda for more information. Transcripts and voting records of the meeting will be posted when they are available.

SOE Update

SOE Results Boost Organic Certification
The Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) regulations, which require nearly every business in the organic supply chain to be certified, have resulted in a significant increase in organic certifications in the first three months of 2024, according to Dr. Jenny Tucker, Deputy Administrator of the National Organic Program.
Since January 2024, 850 new handling operations have been certified, with 500 of those certifications in March and April. Since March 19, the National Organic Program has identified and notified over 550 uncertified operations importing organic products into the United States. In addition, Over 70% of electronic NOP import certificates appear to be valid, and compliance rates continue to improve. Approximately 60% of import certificates are issued by USDA-accredited certifiers—the rest are under organic trade arrangements.
NOP’s next steps for SOE include:

  • Education and outreach
  • Rapid follow up with importers through a system of progressive enforcement,
  • Enforcement actions with noncompliant certifiers
  • Working with trade partner organic programs
  • Taking enforcement action where needed
  • Reviewing certifier organic control system updates.

Learn About Input Materials
The International Organic Inspectors Association and the Organic Materials Review Institute are offering online trainings about input materials review in the inspection and certification process—Perfect for organic inspectors or anyone who needs continuing education credits as part of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement requirements. Some assignments are due in advance of webinar dates, so register soon:

  • May 22 – 100 Level IOIA/OMRI NOP Processing Input Materials
  • Sept 18 – 200 Level IOIA/OMRI NOP Processing Input Materials
  • Oct 15 – 100 Level IOIA/OMRI NOP Crop Input Materials

Nov 13 – 100 Level IOIA/OMRI NOP Processing Input Materials

NOP News

Transition to Organic Partnership Celebrates Successes
Since the Transition to Organic Partnership Program started about a year ago, there have been over 400 events nationwide and over 20,000 people have expressed an interest in transitioning to organic. More than 450 farmers have received technical assistance, and 130 mentorship matches are underway. Mentee applications (375) outpace mentor applications (275), so if you are a farmer with expertise to share, consider applying for a paid mentorship.
National Organic Program Enforcement Update
In the first half of the fiscal year, the National Organic Program fielded 310 complaints, with 63% of them concerning uncertified operations making organic claims and 14% for fraud. In the past 12 months (March 2023-March 2024), the NOP resolved 496 complaints. Of those, 52% ended in voluntary compliance, 12% no violation; 11% referred for investigation and 2% resulted in settlement, civil penalty, or appeal.
Comment on proposed standards for organic mushrooms and pet foods
Proposed standards for mushroom production include composting requirements and sourcing organic substrate and spawn when commercially available. The pet food proposal covers labeling requirements and would add synthetic taurine (an amino acid) to the National List for use organic pet food. Putting specific and consistent standards in place for pet foods and mushroom production is expected to boost markets for those products. Comment on Docket Number AMS-NOP-22-0063 by May 10.
Apply for the National Organic Standards Board
Nominations for the National Organic Standards Board are due June 28. If you’ve applied before or have any interest in guiding the future of the organic sector, you are encouraged to apply. Openings for the five-year terms will be for one farmer seat; two handler seats; one retailer seat and one environmental protection/resource conservation seat. Our COO John Foster has served on the Board, and would be happy to discuss it with you.
New Course on Fraud Prevention
The USDA Organic Integrity Learning Center now offers a microlearning course on Fraud Prevention: Effective Inspector Practices. The course explains the roles of certifiers, inspectors, and other stakeholders working in the certification process and explores ways organic inspectors can participate in organic oversight while also preventing organic fraud. Access it via NOP-997: National Organic Program Microlearning.

International News

Help for Farms Fighting Climate Change
Ecocert Canada and the Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) have partnered to provide organic farmers with an opportunity to participate in Canada’s On-Farm Climate Action Fund (OFCAF) Program. Part of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agriculture Climate Solutions department, the program provides technical and financial assistance for nitrogen management and cover crop practices that store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases. Application.
EU Packaging Regulations Expected Soon
The European Parliament adopted the regulations for Packaging and Packaging Waste in April, and the rules are expected to be formally adopted in the next few months. The regulations include waste reduction targets and require that all packaging placed on the EU market is recyclable and carries recycling labeling. The Regulation also introduces new requirements for packaging minimization, minimum recycled content in plastic packaging, re-use targets for packaging, and bans certain packaging formats. The food and beverage sector will need to pay particular attention to the regulations. By January 1, 2030, manufacturers or importers will need to ensure that the packaging placed on the EU market is designed so that its weight and volume is reduced to the minimum necessary for ensuring its functionality. Certain packaging may be exempt if it is protected by design rights, or its shape is trademarked before the regulation comes into force.

Organic Industry News & Notices

California “Compostable” Definition Favors NOP-Compatibility
In a study to determine if it would be feasible to separate compostable materials for organic agriculture from other compostable materials, the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) recently concluded that it is not feasible. The result will impact all products sold in California and labeled as “compostable.” Starting in January 2026, products in California may not be labeled “compostable” or “home compostable” unless they are allowable inputs in the National Organic Program. More.
California Sets Organic Farmland Targets
As part of its nature-based solutions to address climate change, California has set a target of 10% of the state’s annual and perennial croplands as organic by 2030, with a further goal of 20% by 2045. The shift aids in “scaling up climate smart agriculture practices that improve soil health on croplands and grasslands reduces GHG emissions from soils and builds resilience to drought.” The targets were released April 24.
Several States Move to Ban Lab-Grown Meat
As Florida’s beef production has increased and the state encourages the use of Florida-grown beef, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill May 1 that would ban the sale of lab-grown meat. Alabama has made similar moves—the state’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit the production or sale of cell-based products in the state. If the bill passes the Senate and becomes law, it would go into effect October 1. Arizona and Tennessee are considering similar bans.
REAP Offers Funds for Equipment and Energy Improvements
U.S. agricultural producers and rural small businesses can apply for guaranteed loan financing and grant funding for renewable energy systems or to make energy efficiency improvements through the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). Agricultural producers can also apply for new energy-efficient equipment and new system loans for agricultural production and processing. Applications are due June 30 and September 30.